Monday, June 30, 2014

Multiple allegiances in Abidjan during the World Cup.

Love it or hate it – and I have been known to do both on occasion – Abidjan is a city that pulses to its own vibrant beat. Part of what gives it its vibe is the fact that Abidjan is a city of immigrants, who’ve left their home countries in search of a better life. That said, they remain proudly Burkinabé or Lebanese, and one barely need scratch beneath the surface to see that the city is full of people with mixed allegiances. Come World Cup time, everyone gathers around the national team and cheers them on with high hopes. What looked like every man woman and child was decked out in an Ivorian jersey, and for a couple of weeks, everyone morphed into diehard soccer fans, and all of the old tensions were forgotten. 

The incredible display of national and regional unity, has made watching the World Cup here particularly special. I have watched matches in Lebanese bars, in Ivorian maquis, and in my office building. Once it became clear the “Elephants” would not advance, everyone started cheering for other teams – primarily the remaining African ones.  Slowly, but surely, you could feel unity exit stage left, as multiple allegiances began to reappear.  So much so, that no one batted an eye when I cheered for the US to beat Ghana, and a local taxi driver said he was supporting France because his brother lived there. This place reminds me of how much we are all connected to one another in ways that we often forget. Here, somehow, it all works.  And that’s what makes this place special.    

Update: When I got home last night, I saw my building's security guard staring intently at a TV screen, watching the last minutes of the Germany Algeria game. He looked up at me and said the French equivalent of: --Welp, there goes the last African team...

Friday, June 20, 2014

5 Things you don't need to take with you to Abidjan...

1. Clothes Labor is cheap and chances are you'll have a cleaning lady.  You are also going to want to buy local clothes in African (wax) fabric.
2. Good leather. It molds in the humidity here, unless you are extremely diligent.
3. High heeled shoes.  The roads are too bad for me to waste my precious shoes here.
4. Most foodstuffs.  I have found a million different kinds of foodstuffs I would never have imagined. If you can find it in Paris or in Paris Store  (  or in a Lebanese grocery store you can probably find it here...
5. Wood furniture (especially wardrobes).  If you're comfortable working with a carpenter, get it done here: Abidjan has nice wood and good carpenters. Also, most apartments have wardrobes in them...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

So I got really sick this weekend

So I felt really sick on Saturday, sick enough to miss all of the soccer and crawl into bed at 7 pm. I woke up the next morning knowing that something was amiss and that I needed to find a doctor.
A friend have me a doctor's contact info and he came over in the afternoon. Not only did he speak English, his house call cost 20 000 francs. Luckily, it turns out I don't have malaria but some kind of angina that is turning into bronchitis-- hence the hacking cough.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A short post for the Abidjan naysayers.

Someone came into my office yesterday and was critical about Abidjan's infrastructure.  He mentioned things that were very true, including the roads' inability to handle all of the traffic, and complained about the flooding that invariably happens during the rainy season here...  I have not always been the biggest fan of Abidjan, and I'm pretty sure my posts reflect that.  Despite that, I somehow found myself getting really defensive about the place and its people.  Oh far the mighty have fallen. I, ever the naysayer, am finally beginning to grow attached to this place...

Either way, I think that Abidjan is judged too harshly. Traffic is horrendous and the road infrastructure has been poorly maintained, but I feel like the roads here aren't that bad. And the government has embarked an admirable series of large scale infrastructure projects to bring the roads up to snuff. Before being too critical, I think we should ask ourselves whether the roads in Guinea or Cameroun are any better...
Finally, the people more than make up for it.  I have met many friendly Ivorians and love the energy that so many of them seem to have...
Have a great weekend, and enjoy watching the World Cup!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Malagassy Food

We found an amazing Malgassy restaurant in Abidjan.  The food was good, and the hostess didn't seem to mind that we stayed for at least 4 hours.  With a bill that came in at under 10 000 francs per person (and everyone had two courses), we may end up becoming regulars at Le Relais Malgache (off of Rue des Jardins in II Plateaux -- (59 49 33 75 / 07 07 22 84 / 07 07 22 85)...
I'll post pictures soon, promise...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Assinie Lunches... and more love in Abidjan

A group of us braved the overcast skies and headed to Coucoué Lodge in Assinie for lunch last weekend...  With a grilled shrimp salad and lobster that were out of this world, the least I can say is that the food did not disappoint,
We also shared shredded calamari.

People ate on the waterfront, and it was a great meal.
Since it's rainy season, the beach was deserted, and the water was choppy.
My little friend took all the food shots (he's 5, and doesn't really like food)

Even the salads were amazing.  I must say that I am glad I've overcome my salad fear.
My little photographer friend does like shrimp, though... :-)

In case you were wondering why I mentioned love in what seems to be an obvious food post, your patience is about to be rewarded.

Over lunch, one of my lunch-mates, who seems to be somewhat unlucky in love was making blanket statements about what kind of men "girls like me" are willing to date.  I am not really sure why I was singled out. But, having refrained from venturing into the Abidjan dating cesspool with its expats, colleagues, married men, and young guys trying to get a visa to anywhere but here, I find his remarks ironic, to say the least. Then, it all clicked.  Not only do women in Côte d'Ivoire tend to rely on men for economic survival, many of them are vying for a small number of "eligible" Ivorian men.  I feel the competitiveness of the dating pool in Abidjan gives men with money a sense of entitlement so strong that a guy I barely know thinks he has the right to have me fawn all over him, and is upset when I don't.